There are many things to say about Los Angeles. Most of these things I will not say because you already know them. Because a singular Los Angeles does not exist and even though this post is titled Los Angeles, being and existing in the city of Los Angeles sometimes has nothing to do with the city itself. One fact is that LA is a completely different city for everyone. If there ever was a city in which every inhabitant could tailor their existence and experience of that city completely, it is LA. Your LA is very different from my LA. My LA from a few years ago is different from my LA today.
A city that draws in shades of light, shades of imagination. An impossible city. A forbidden one. Bluish haze and streets streaming down, bundles of grass. It always feels like the last time.
Days when the sky is as blue as —
As the loss of —
As grieving or falling —
Or, days when the sky is as grey as —
As the insistence of —
As the footnotes above —
Or, when we know that the sky isn’t blue at all, that the insistence of blue is the insistence of an existence’s perceived persistence, that the insistence of blue as a saturated entity is one that humiliates, concerns, mortifies with each step down the sidewalk, the daydream that phenomenologically becomes the insistence of a snail or a palm tree hovering above everything.
Look at the sky, I say.
I don’t see anything, you say.
In this place, it is possible to be surrounded by everyone and to be completely alone. In this place, it is possible to simultaneously feel the effect of urban grunge and filth and beauty, garbage and grime in every alleyway, that smell of shellfish, that look that people give you when stopped at an intersection, to feel all of that alongside a legendary hyphen, the reciprocity of nature, of trees, of dirt, of birds, of air.
One of the greatest things is how many views there are of the city from within the city. You can drive to numerous points, hike up to numerous vistas, every view of the city completely different, differing psychological standpoints, differing hierarchies of places, the growth and manifestation of a strange perspective of a city that you occupy, pendunculated beaks of birds that caw behind you.
But as far as I understand, no one intends to escape. Where would you escape to, and why? Stay where you are. Everyone is calm and in a good mood. Besides, multiple perspectives require the utmost precision of finger, eyeball, and muscle, dragging memory along the word’s orbit from one layer of fog to another.
– Arkadii Dragomoshchenko
Seen from the window of your car, the city is a fascinating series of reflections. Silence doesn’t exist except for when you turn up the volume on your radio and then, the clusters of the city that reproduce, everyone’s gazes fixed upon something, misty haze or smog that remains invisible yet manages to cloud everyone’s vision. His acts and omissions. Her acknowledgement. His fixed wound. Her tears. His responsibility. Her burden. His inspiration. Her escape.
Some nights I say something about something happening somewhere in the world.
You sound just like my mom, you say.
It is ending, I say.
No it’s not, you say.
Yes. It is.
LA is a moving city, or an immensely fixed one in which we move through, quickly, slowly, meandering, zigzagging, on the same routes, on new ones. What the city looks like is what it looks like when I’m stuck in traffic, when I’m speeding down the highway, when I’m focused on being somewhere on time. That is what the city looks like, threads that exist as paradoxical impressions, transparent, immense, blurred, tattooed over eyelids.
To another. Do you still love me? It may not matter anymore. I don’t think it does.
The thickness of the air, though, that noisy silence that you can only sit in when you are still, this is the opportune and irreducible moment of being in this city. Yes, the standard logic and majority image of LA dictates a moving landscape. The trembling half-existence of relentlessly running around constantly, driving, the view of palm trees and buildings and other streets from your car, the receding day, the sunset in your rearview mirror, the approaching deadline that tangifies time, the music, the outbreaks, the intention of space that is only felt when moving through it. But LA sits differently when you are still. When you try to take a snapshot and live inside it, and for a moment, the city doesn’t exist at all. It is just you and the space and the sky. Just you and the air and the heat and the breath.
Immensity is within ourselves. It is attached to a sort of expansion of being that life curbs and caution arrests, but which starts again when we are alone. As soon as we become motionless, we are elsewhere; we are dreaming in a world that is immense. Indeed, immensity is the movement of motionless man. It is one of the dynamic characteristics of quiet daydreaming.
– Gaston Bachelard
You don’t understand my devastation. That I can feel the pain of both the victims and the perpetrators, the witnesses and the listeners, the bystanders and the actors. I can feel it all and it is heavy, the pain of the world is heavy, and in this city I can stay safe-guarded by the sky. The world will end, just trust what the weather has to say, and in the end, none of these tiny things matter, just the sky and it’s devastation that will shroud the planet in its love and its glory, suffocate us with its violent breath. I stay up late to read poems by Kenneth Patchen and Jaime Saenz because here is my soul and I watch you sleep and I love you but tonight I feel very far away and I am trying to come back. How do I get back?
there are so many little dyings that it doesn’t matter which of them is death.
– Kenneth Patchen
Let’s just say that when you stretch out the transparent layers of this city, it becomes a confession.
The confession isn’t the desire for death, though there is that too, but that you miss your mother.
The sun and the heat become irrelevant until you go outside to confront the light.
But in the light there is mother, there is that untraceable wound that began with birth.
The city changes when you do, and the confession is that each and every gesture becomes filled with uncertainty.
The city is so certain of itself, but it confesses that it knows nothing when there is the sky.
It’s a matter of taking a few steps back, to trace the wound back to the light, the light a frantic ghost.
Not every panorama is an equal snapshot of this city, yet in the end they are all the same, confessing.
It rained once, a thoughtless nod to the wound of this city.
The neighbors yelling next door don’t know to face the silence courageously.
The obligation is to pass the shadow on the sidewalk and to keep walking, to skip the embrace with light.
The proclamation is that you are an individual but in one moment you are part of a mass, in another, a ray of light.
Man himself is mute, and it is the image that speaks. For it is obvious that the image alone can keep pace with nature.
– Boris Pasternak
Here is the real dilemma. That so many moments in this city are inarticulatable. My confession is that I try relentlessly and hopelessly to capture moments via images, words. This is all a futile exercise. All of this only ends in failure. But sometimes, inarticulation becomes articulation. That is, the photo I try to take, the one that captures none of the essence that I felt in that very moment when I looked up at the sky and wanted to cry, could have died right there, that the photo instead becomes the articulation of that inarticulatable moment in a way that the evidence can only be a frantic ghost too, a wound, a relinquishing of everything into a concentration of something.
Let me know that you get this. I mean, photos are an example of this, yes, trying to capture that sunset, that cosmic allusion to all of space and time in the upper light of the sky, that devastating miracle of life that becomes contaminated by so many small things. But other articulations too.
Like: I love you.
Words for one of the most inarticulatable of sensations. I mean, this is not the same thing for everyone. Every I love you is not equivalent. There is no such thing as repetition in love, yet here are the words that claim, that attempt, that bravely endeavor to signify a specific value via language. This is as absurd as calling the sky “blue,” as calling the sunset “beautiful,” as claiming you feel “happy.” All of these attempts, gravitations, comments: absurd.
But I say I love you and I mean it. I mean something that I can’t describe but these words are the closest approximation, an agreed upon convention that these words will mean something close to what it is I feel, but important is the conjuration of all the other feelings associated with the gesture of the phrase, that when you say I love you I can feel this sensation of finitude and eternity in my bones, that I can feel the widening of breath, the threat of paralysis when it all ends, and an entire substantial reality built around you that does not yet exist, will never exist.
When I say I love you, I recall the memories of a thousand nights of presence, the limits of feelings at night when I am in my bed, when I am outside, when I pause to linger in a single moment of existence. Feelings reveal the taint of past trauma. Feelings become vocality and articulated via gestures. You hold my hand and for a moment, that is everything.
Can I confess that you become connected to this city somehow, for me, that every sky or sunset or towering building, every glamorous palm tree, every sad one, every reflection of light off a window, every conjured sound, they all begin to match the repetitive vitality of your breath, your touch, your existence. This doesn’t have to make any sense. It doesn’t make any sense that I know you, that you exist, here, with me. I’m not sure where you came from. I’m not sure when I came from either. It doesn’t seem to matter, though at some point in my life, these things did matter. So many things mattered. What matters is your touch. Your breath. Your body next to mine. Your existence in this city with me. What matters is that suddenly, very much suddenly, I can not imagine life without you. That is what love is, perhaps, a complete rearranging of the imagination, a complete infiltration of a subjectivity that seems to defer how images correlate with each other. Suddenly, what matters is the color of the sky. The direction of the stars. The speed of light. Significance and insignificance change places.
The engraving upon a pillar.
Quick steps. Slow ones.
Moments in space.
The density of the fog.
I want to experience every shade of light with you. Every shade in between.
I want many, many things, yet also, those desires fade away.
It is all terrifying. One day, this city will swallow me whole, and no one, not even the pigeons, will notice.